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Broad term used to describe the majority of the Germanic peoples who settled in England during the 5th and 6th centuries. The name derives from two specific groups — the Angles of Jutland and the Saxons from northern Germany — who were probably among the migrants. Earlier archaeological work concentrated on attempts to recognize separate groups (especially the Angles, Saxons and Jutes mentioned by Bede) in the archaeological record, but this has now been abandoned as an unprofitable exercise. The term Anglo-Saxon, or simply Saxon, is now generally used as a chronological term, covering the period from the first Germanic invasions of the 5th century up till the Norman invasion of 1066. During the Early or Pagan Saxon period (up to the mid-7th century) before Christianity was widely adopted, rich grave goods were placed with the dead and most archaeological evidence comes from the cemeteries, including the exceptional ship burial at Sutton Hoo. Settlements of this period are also known, including West Stow and Mucking, where both a settlement and a cemetery have been excavated. After the adoption of Christianity, following St Augustine’s mission in 597 (see Canterbury), churches were built and in the Middle and especially the Late Saxon periods form a major focus of Anglo-Saxon studies. Early examples include Bradford-upon-Avon and Deerhurst. Very important monuments of the Middle and Late Saxon periods are the royal palaces at Yeavering and Cheddar (see Cheddar, sense 2). After the Viking invasions of the 9th century ad the Late Saxon period saw the growth of the first towns in Britain since the Roman period, following the establishment of burhs in response to the Scandinavian threat. Large-scale excavations have taken place in the Saxon towns of Thetford, Winchester and Southampton (Saxon Hamwih). This period is also characterized by wide-ranging trade, a developed coinage and improved levels of craft skills in pottery manufacture and metal-working. The Anglo-Saxon period saw the emergence of separate British kingdoms, traditionally seven in number, of which the most important were Mercia, Northumbria and Wessex. These ultimately coalesced in a unified England, with its capital at Winchester in Wessex. The Anglo-Saxons were responsible for the introduction of the English language and for the establishment of the settlement pattern which became characteristic of medieval England.

The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983Copied